This is a guest post from Marcus Clarke. Marcus has a degree in psychology, a master’s degree in health psychology and has worked within the NHS as well as private organisations. Marcus started psysci a psychology and science blog in order to disseminate research into bitesize, meaningful and helpful resources.

There are several conventional treatments for mental disorders that most people are familiar with, such as therapy sessions with health care professionals and independently organized support groups. Counsellors, psychologists, nurses and mental health psychiatrists are typically involved with these types of therapy, with medication such as anti-depressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs often being prescribed. Suffering from a mental disorder can be very traumatic, especially when traditional methods such as therapy and medication aren’t producing the desired results. Below are 7 surprising alternative treatments that can complement and in some instances even replace the usual forms of mental disorder treatments.

  1. Yoga and meditation

Yoga is all the hype and certainly not without reason. Deep breathing exercises, body treatments and yoga classes form an important part of alternative health treatments for those suffering from mental disorders. It not only provides a healthy way in which to increase awareness of your body and release muscle tension, but also offers an opportunity to be social and feel a sense of belonging by just attending a yoga group or class. Yoga and meditation practices are based on the notion of mindfulness and as this study shows, really do hold proven benefits for people suffering from mental disorders such as depression, ADHD and even schizophrenia.

  1. Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy, often combined with adventure therapy, is a method in which psychologists use outdoor experiences as a basis for therapeutic work. It is important that clients are carefully assessed and that therapy practices and the duration of stay in the wilderness are appropriately determined. Wilderness therapy uses physical health and challenges to confront emotional problems in a comfortable and natural environment. The outdoor setting also breaks down barriers and provides an informal and fun way for those with mental disorders to explore their feelings while growing in self-confidence every time they overcome a difficult hike or apply survival skills.

  1. Light Therapy

Light therapy uses controlled exposure to varying levels of light as an alternative treatment for depression, sleeping disorders, bipolar depression and even eating disorders. Light therapy is also an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder – read more about light therapy products here.  Read more about the topic here and if it appeals to you, consult your health care professional about the possibility of light therapy for your condition.

  1. Nutrition

Nutritional therapies are an effective alternative form of treatment for mental disorders. This article explains the connection between nutritional deficiencies and mental disorders. This research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals and amino acid supplements can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, fatigue, attention deficiencies and mood fluctuations often associated with mental disorders.

  1. Equine Therapy

Equine therapy as a treatment for mental disorders is also referred to as equine-assisted psychotherapy. This method makes use of psychotherapy practices in which horses are used to aid in the treatment of psychological disorders. Although this is a new field of research with lots of room for growth, it is thought that horses are highly sensitive to the environment and emotional state of people around them. Interaction with horses is a favoured therapy method for those with behavioural issues, depression, communication problems and anxiety.

  1. Art Therapy

The creative process involved in art therapy allows patients to explore their emotions while reducing anxiety and increasing self-esteem. This alternative treatment is especially useful in dealing with mental disorders stemming from cases of severe trauma. Art therapists are usually trained in the fields of psychology and counselling, allowing them to rehabilitate those with mental disorders through creative outlets that foster a positive outlook.

  1. Exercise

This research study indicates that as little as 30 minutes of physical activity per day can aid people suffering from mental illnesses in various ways. Benefits from exercise as an alternative treatment to drugs and medication include regulated sleep patterns, lower stress levels, increased energy and appetite and a general improvement in mood and mental state. Aerobic exercises are especially effective in reducing anxiety, depression and related symptoms.

In conclusion, several alternative therapies to the traditional use of medication and therapy sessions exist. Exercise, increased nutrition, art, the outdoors, light therapy, meditation and equine interaction are great alternatives for those with mental disorders and require very little financial input and resources to try out. Whether as a complement or alternative to other methods that have not proven effective in your case, one or more of these treatments might just do the trick.